Start by asking yourself a few key questions, says a therapist.
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With the new year comes a sense of revival. It invigorates us to set our sights on new goals in all categories, from financial to physical. Another area that should also be top of mind is emotional wellness. Tapping into your mental health by asking yourself a few questions or working with a therapist are great ways to start. In turn, you'll be able to set personal wellness goals for the year ahead. Here, a licensed therapist shares exactly how to do just that at the top of 2022.

Check in with yourself emotionally.

Before getting to goal setting, your first step should be to check in with your mental health; take notice if and when your emotions feel off. Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, a therapist, family psychiatrist, and chief medical officer at LifeStance Health, a virtual and in-person outpatient mental health care provider, suggests asking yourself a few key questions: Did something that usually brings you joy not have the same effect? Are you finding it difficult to get out of bed? Do small stressors impact your day in a big way?

"If, after doing some further self-reflection, you decide you're open to seeing a mental health clinician and getting some professional advice to facilitate change in your life, I would encourage you to reach out for support," she says. "It's important to normalize that, just as you would need medical attention for a sprained ankle, we can all benefit from mental health support during challenging times." Not sure if your stressors and worries merit meeting with a psychologist? Dr. Patel-Dunn says if therapy has crossed your mind, it's time to consider making an appointment. "Other indications that you might benefit from speaking with a mental health professional are if you find you don't enjoy things you used to or if you're experiencing social anxiety, irritability, or other behaviors that are out of character for you," she adds.

Start small.

Do you want to make your mental health a priority in the new year? Start with smaller, incremental changes and set attainable goals. "For example, going back to our self-care basics, like finding time to step outside and get fresh air, incorporating exercise, developing a healthy routine with sleeping, and eating habits—these things seem simple, but can have a very positive effect on our mental health," Dr. Patel-Dunn says. A new year might seem like the time to think big, but this ultimately be a period when you commit to working gradually. "When thinking about goals in the new year, simple is better. It's also important to be realistic about what achieving those goals might feel like at first," she shares. "If your goal is to seek support for mental health in 2022, attending your first session can be very anxiety provoking. I always recommend giving yourself two to three sessions before you decide that a professional may not be the right fit. It's important to know that, initially, you may be even more anxious after your first visit, and it's normal to feel slightly worse before you feel better. Don't give up!"

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